a study in scarlet was published in 1887

Literary References in Kuroshitsuji/Black Butler

There are a crap ton of references to literature in Kuroshitsuji, and after re-reading all of Kuro I was really motivated to make a giant list of the literary references.

So I did.

The Admirable History of Possession (Sebastian Michaelis)

In the 1600s, a French inquisitor named Sebastien Michaelis co-wrote The Admirable History of Possession and Conversion of a Penitent Woman. It included a classification/hierarchy of demons that is sometimes referenced in esoteric literature. I’m guessing Yana named Sebastian after this guy.

Famous Poets (Snakes)

All of Snake’s snakes are named after famous canonical writers. 

These include, but are not limited to, John Webster, John Donne, Emily Bronte, Oscar Wilde, John Keats, William Wordsworth, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

Peter and Wendy (Peter and Wendy from the Circus arc)

Peter and Wendy was originally a play/novel from the early 1900s and (as you’ve probably guessed) was the source material for the 1953 Disney film, Peter Pan. Peter and Wendy from Kuro have a medical condition where their bodies literally “never grow up,” which is something that happens in Peter Pan, but in that story it’s a result of magic instead of biology. Peter and Wendy from Kuro are also trapeze performers, which is the closest thing in a circus to flying.

Sherlock Holmes (The Phantomhive Mansion Murder Arc)

This might seem pretty obvious and yeah it kind of is, but there are a lot of fun little details that relate to Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle.

  • In chapter 39 of Kuro, Arthur admits to Ciel that he would rather write historical novels instead of detective fiction, but his editors told him historical novels wouldn’t sell. Ciel then says that Arthur should just make a name writing mysteries and that after that the history novels will sell based on his name alone. Arthur Conan Doyle has gained quite the reputation as the guy who wrote mysteries and got sick of them while no one cared about his historical novels, so this conversation is actually pretty funny.
  • Some of the side characters in the Murder arc have names based on characters from the original Sherlock stories. Irene Diaz shares a first name with Irene Adler (both characters are opera singers) and Patrick Phelps shares a last name with Percy Phelps (both of whom have nervous dispositions).
  • In chapter 45, Sebastian (as Jeremy) points out that Arthur has written a bunch of story ideas on the inside of his sleeves. The words written in his sleeves include “pearl” (”The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”) and “sign” (The Sign of Four). There’s also “India” and “secret room,” but I’m not sure what specific stories those are referring to.
  • Fun bonus fact: Jeremy Rathbone (aka Sebastian in disguise) is named after 2 actors: Jeremy Brett and Basil Rathbone. Both of them played Sherlock Holmes at one point in their careers. 

Beeton’s/Punch (magazines that Ciel reads)

In chapter 39 Arthur mentions that  “A Study in Scarlet” was published in Beeton’s magazine, and that he’s surprised that someone in a position of nobility would read such a magazine. Beeton’s actually exists and “A Study in Scarlet” was first published in Beeton’s in November of 1887.

In response to Arthur’s surprise, Ciel mentions that he also reads Punch. This was also a real magazine, but what makes it weird is that one of the editors of Punch was a guy named Edmund Knox. One of Edmund’s brothers was a guy named Ronald Knox, who wrote detective fiction.


Propertius’ “Elegiae” (The poem being taught at Weston)

In the public school arc, Sebastian is teaching a Latin poem that relates to some themes and events in the Kuro universe. Here’s a link to a more in depth post about the quote. 

Micah Clarke (novel that Ciel buys)

In chapter 85 (the one where everyone goes shopping), Ciel notices that Arthur wrote a historical novel called Micah Clarke. This was an actual novel by Arthur Conan Doyle from 1889. It’s also hilarious that Ciel complains about the historical novel because he wants Arthur to just write more mysteries. Wow.

The Wizard of Oz (Sieglinde Sullivan) 

(This one took me forever to get because I could never pronounce her first name properly).

In German, “Sieglinde” is pronounced “See-glinda,” which reminded me of Glinda the good witch from The Wizard of Oz. At first I thought that might be a coincidence, but then I realized that’s she’s also known as the “Green Witch,” which calls to mind the Wicked Witch of the West. Furthermore, her residence is the Emerald Castle, which is possibly a reference to the Emerald City. 

Also, the werewolf stuff takes place in southern Germany (Glinda was the good witch of the south).

(Maybe Wolfram is her little dog too!)

Fenian Cycle (Finny’s name)

In chapter 100, there’s a flashback where we see Ciel naming Finny after the lead character in a book titled Fenian Cycle: Celtic Mythology. The Fenian Cycle is a real story that’s part of Irish mythology and, just as Ciel says, the lead character was named for his blonde hair. 

Othello (Othello the reaper)

Othello is a Shakespeare play (my personal favourite Shakespeare play by the by) in which the title character is tricked into thinking that his wife was having an affair and murders her in a fit of jealous rage (the person who tricked him, Iago, convinced him that this was the best course of action). Like 5 minutes after he kills her it’s revealed that she didn’t cheat on him and he just fell for a really elaborately set up lie. Othello kills himself after discovering the truth. 

Yeah…I think it’s fairly easy to figure out that Othello (in the play) has a parallel to a character who we know committed suicide at one point. TBH this is my favourite reference in all of Kuro because we can kind of guess the character’s backstory based on his name.

Side note: Othello (the Kuro character) works in forensics, which is fitting since the field of forensics involves finding hard evidence to prove guilt or innocence. Shakespeare’s Othello had to rely on sight, verbal information, and assumptions, which led to him falsely accusing his wife of cheating on him.

Other stuff: In chapter 14, Ciel has a nightmare involving Poe’s “The Raven” and the early part of the circus arc mentions the Pied Piper. Both of these are well-known/explained in the story, so I didn’t feel the need to write a whole thing about each of them. 

If you noticed anything missing, please add it to the post! (Although make note that these are only the literary references. There are like 10,000 historical references in Kuro and I’m not experienced enough in history to notice all of them, so those can be another post.)

The Historical Ronald Knox & the Ten Commandments of Detective Fiction

 Could this guy:

Be a nod to this guy?:

Quite possibly! 

The historical Ronald Knox was born in England, in 1888. He grew up in an Anglican household and became an Anglican chaplain at the age of 24. Just five years later, he converted to Catholicism (getting disowned by his father) and was ordained as a priest. He converted to Catholicism because his family’s brand of Protestantism was too “old-fashioned”:

He’s best known for four things he’s done, plus he’s related to someone known for something else quite interesting (to Black Butler analysis). Let’s look at these:

Writing and codifying rules for detective fiction. 

While working as a Catholic chaplain at Oxford, he wrote numerous detective novels. He belongs to the Golden Age of Detective Fiction and codified the “Ten Commandments” of detective writing:

The funny thing here, is Yana-san has broken EVERY SINGLE ONE of these commandments (well, basically…)!

Here they are again. Let’s look at them, one by one:

Knox’s “Ten Commandments” (or “Decalogue”) are as follows:

  1. The criminal must be mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to know. Well, there are so many criminals, from arc to arc, but the earl and his butler are also criminals, basically, and we do get their thoughts, mostly the earl’s…. However, if you consider just the Phantomhive Murders arc, there are three real culprits. Charles Grey is introduced early on, we don’t know his thoughts, and he’s the guy who kills Georg Siemens (and tries to kill Sebastian). Mr. Woodley is mentioned early in the arc, we don’t know his thoughts except what he says, and though he’s falsely arrested for the murder of Georg Siemens, he’s actually the murderer behind the death of Mr. Roze… someone who didn’t attend the party at Phantomhive Manor. Third, we have Snake; he was not introduced as a player in this arc; he’s the real “13th person”, an uninvited guest whose identity is only revealed at the very end of the arc (and only to the earl, not to anyone else at the party). He’s the other murderer.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course. HA! Though medieval theologians define the workings of devils, astral beings, and spirits as preternatural, not supernatural, we can clearly say that events beyond “natural” occur quite frequently in this story.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable. In the Phantomhives Murder arc, Charles Grey says that his house has at least one secret passage for quick getaway. In the Green Witch arc, Sieglinde has a secret passage that leads to where she writes out her “spells” (chemical formulae). At the end of the Noah’s Ark Circus arc, John Brown and Double Charles use some special passage (a possibly preternatural method) in order to catch up with the earl and Sebastian (definitely using preternatural means) at Baron Kelvin’s mansion. Another possible secret passage (also possibly preternatural) is used during the Green Witch arc, as Sebastian’s test samples arrive at Windsor Palace way sooner than they should (Double Charles discuss how odd it is), and John Brown arrives with the test results way too quickly (and apparently on foot, beside his horse, no less).
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end. Though mustard gas and sarin gas were being developed during the Victorian era, we are introduced to “Sulin” (in the Green Witch arc), a gas that is probably (historically) derived from the term “sarin”, but we learn about it at the same time its inventor is let in on the truth… and “Sulin” comes from her own name. I’m not sure whether to call it an appliance, but perhaps an application – during the Campania arc, we get a fake scientific explanation from Rian Stoker about how the Bizarre Dolls supposedly work, and how the machine is supposed to control/deactivate them; truth is the machine does nothing. If there are devices installed in their brains, like he says there are, they are only for Undertaker’s amusement. In the same arc, Undertaker has to explain how he manipulates the cinematic records of corpses in order to reanimate them as Bizarre Dolls; it’s not really science, though, but preternatural again. In the Weston arc, Undertaker explains how he’s advanced his studies and improved upon the Bizarre Dolls. And this is just so far….
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. Um, Lau… and Ran-Mao. Enough said.
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right. This one I had to think about. There must be several occasions, but the one that most comes to mind is in the Weston arc when Soma rides off on his elephant, and the elephant gets spooked by what later turns out to be Agni hiding in the bushes. The spooked elephant causes damage to the Red House dorm, giving Soma a chance to get to know (spy on) Maurice Cole. What Soma learns gives the earl all he needs to know in order to expose Cole as a fraud.
  7. The detective himself must not commit the crime. Hmm. Well, like I said before, the earl and Sebastian commit several crimes. However, it’s up in the air who has committed the crimes the earl is trying to uncover, ultimately. However, it’s oddly hinted at that the earl’s birth, itself, is the crime that caused all this to be set in motion. That’s up for serious debate; we won’t know how that bit plays out until the very end, I’m sure.
  8. The detective is bound to declare any clues which he may discover. Though we think the earl and Sebastian declare the clues as they find them, we cannot be certain that ALL clues are being divulged. In fact, we could say they are hiding major clues from the very start! The earl knows whether he had a twin brother. They both know whether the earl’s real name is Ciel or something else. The earl doesn’t care where Sebastian came from, who his previous master was, or what he did for that master; we don’t know whether this would be of any pertinence, but it could be; Sebastian isn’t offering any info on his past, either way. We know the earl lies. We know that even though Sebastian does not directly lie, he does withhold information and does other deceitful things (like hide cats in his room {Phantomhive Murders arc}… and get info in ways other that expected/directed by the earl {Noah’s Ark Circus arc, sorry, Beast}).
  9. The “sidekick” of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal from the reader any thoughts which pass through his mind: his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader. Though we do often get to see Sebastian’s perspective of things, he hides a lot from the reader, particularly what he finds so disagreeable/amusing when the earl refers to himself as “Ciel”. I’m in the camp that believes the earl lies about his name and identity, so I think this is the main reason Sebastian reacts this way. There are other things we don’t know about, things Sebastian thinks but does not express, like (in the Blue Sect arc) his true emotions when he’s called out for not having the protection of a star; we see the expression on his face but don’t know his thoughts. Now, Sebastian can be an absolute dork and even rather immature, at times, but he’s not less intelligent than the average reader…. Nothing against the average reader, but Sebastian is freaking intelligent.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them. Guh fufufu….! Well, I’d like to claim that this is the one Yana-san is actually following, since I think we have been prepared for this, but…. A lot of readers are going to be caught completely off-guard when the real Ciel shows up (in some form), and the earl is exposed as being, well… NOT Ciel. Oh, and then there’s S2 of the anime, in which a lookalike brother for Fred Abberline shows up, even though, in S1, Abberline says he has no siblings; that clearly breaks this rule.

Translating the Latin Vulgate bible into English.

As a Catholic priest, he took it upon himself to do his own English translation of the Latin Vulgate bible, and it’s considered one of the most “beautiful” English-language translations, simply known as the Knox Bible.

Creating one of the first on-air hoaxes of all-time.

In 1926, Ronald Knox used his program on BBC radio to play a hoax on unsuspecting Brits. It ended up inspiring Orson Welles to play his famous “The War of the Worlds” hoax, years later.

Wrote satirical essays.

Ronald Knox got in some humorous action by writing several satirical essays, too (from Wikipedia):

An essay in Knox’s Essays in Satire (1928), “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes”, was the first of the genre of mock-serious critical writings on Sherlock Holmes and mock-historical studies in which the existence of Holmes, Watson, et al. is assumed. Another of these essays, The Authorship of “In Memoriam, purports to prove that Tennyson’s poem was actually written by Queen Victoria. Another satirical essay, “Reunion All Round”, mocked the fabled Anglican tolerance in the form of an appeal to the Anglican Church to absorb everyone from Muslims to atheists, and even Catholics after murdering Irish children and banning Irish marriage and reproduction.

Related to (brother of) E.V. Knox.

Why’s that matter? E.V. Knox was the editor for Punch, a publication that the earl says he also reads… when Arthur is surprised that the earl reads Beeson’s Christmas Annual (Phantomhive Murders arc). Recall that the 1887 issue of Beeson’s Christmas Annual is what published Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet”. 

Funny: the very first issue of Punch shows Punch hanging the devil:

Quite interesting, yes??

Great News: Now Anyone Can Write and Publish a Sherlock Holmes Story

At last, the great detective Sherlock Holmes has broken free of the clutches of his captors.

Last month, a Chicago judge ruled that Holmes, a fictional character created in the late 19th century by the British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, is in fact out of copyright—meaning that the exclusive copyrights once held by the publishers of the original Sherlock Holmes stories no longer apply. Unless the decision is overturned on appeal, new Holmes adaptations should be just about as legally unregulated as adaptations of Shakespeare or folk tales. Given the success of adaptations like Elementary and BBC’s Sherlock, that means we’re likely to see a whole lot more Holmes content in the not-too-distant future. And since a strong public domain benefits art, that’s a boon both for Holmes-lovers and for everyone else.

You could be forgiven for thinking that Sherlock Holmes was out of copyright already. The original novel, A Study in Scarlet, was published in 1887—more than 125 years ago. Even in the U.S., where copyright has been extended and extended and extended again, protection usually applies only 95 years from the date of publication, meaning Holmes and Watson should be well out of it.

Read more. [Image: BBC; Wikimedia; CBS]


Sherlock Holmes

A fictional detective created by Scottish author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, a graduate of the University of Edinburgh Medical School. A London-based “consulting detective” whose abilities border on the fantastic, Holmes is known for his astute logical reasoning, his ability to adopt almost any disguise and his use of forensic science to solve difficult cases. Holmes, who first appeared in print in 1887, was featured in four novels and 56 short stories. The first novel, A Study in Scarlet, appeared in Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 and the second, The Sign of the Four, in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine in 1890. The character’s popularity grew with the first series of short stories in The Strand Magazine, beginning with “A Scandal in Bohemia” in 1891; additional short-story series and two novels (published in serial form) appeared from then to 1927. The events in the stories take place from about 1880 to 1914.

All but four stories are narrated by Holmes’s friend and biographer, Dr. John H. Watson. Two are narrated by Holmes himself (“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier” and “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”), and two others are written in the third person (“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” and “His Last Bow”). In two stories (“The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual” and “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott”), Holmes tells Watson the story from his memory, with Watson narrating the frame story. The first and fourth novels, A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear, include long passages of omniscient narrative of events unknown to either Holmes or Watson. (edit)